The Detroit Lions have taken some major steps to improve their pass rushing, using a top draft pick last year on Aiden Hutchinson and finding a late-round gem in James Houston.
One outlet believes the Lions could now add some veteran leadership to help shape the two budding stars. Christian Booher of SI.com’s All Lions ran through a list of the top available defensive free agents for the Lions, pegging veteran pass rusher Frank Clark as potentially the best option.
Lions Could Bring on Mentor for Young Stars
As Booher noted, Clark could help round out Detroit’s pass rushing while serving as something of a mentor to the two young stars.
“The Lions have a very promising core of EDGE rushers in Aidan Hutchinson and James Houston. Both are entering their second season, and with high expectations,” Booher wrote.
“Behind them, Detroit has a mix of youth and veterans serving as depth. If the Lions were to add Clark, they would secure the services of a proven veteran who could mentor the young players on the defense.”
Clark had landed a five-year, $104-million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs after coming in a trade from the Seattle Seahawks in 2019, but was released in March after the two sides failed to reach a re-worked contract.
The three-time Pro Bowler had a major impact during his time in Kansas City, registering 263 tackles, 131 quarterback hits, 67 tackles for a loss, 58.5 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, and two interceptions during his four seasons there.
Lions Could Face Tough Decision
Booher had previously noted that it could be a difficult decision for the Lions to add Clark. While he could bring veteran leadership, Booher noted that it could be at the expense of the team’s dedication to their young players and could force out another veteran.
“Additionally, the Lions currently have a pair of established veterans on the roster already, with Romeo Okwara and Charles Harris both having logged at least six seasons,” Booher wrote for SI.com’s All Lions in March. “If the Lions were to pursue a player like Clark, it may come at the expense of making one of the veterans a cap casualty.”
Both Hutchinson and Houston had breakout rookie seasons for the Lions in 2022, with the first-round Hutchinson registering 9.5 sacks and sixth-round linebacker Houston making 8 sacks in just seven games.
John Fox, who joined the Lions’ coaching staff as a senior defensive consultant, told the Detroit Free Press that he believes Hutchinson could have an even bigger season in 2023.
“He’s an impact player,” Fox told reporter Dave Birkett. “I think the fact that he’s kind of a homegrown kid as well I think adds to the allure. And he’s a guy that works hard. You see a lot of strain in his game when you look at him on tape. I just met him a couple days ago for the first time as a Lion, but you see great potential. He had a very, very good rookie season and I think he’ll just be that much better for it, those experiences, and he’ll just get better and better. But he’s an outstanding prospect, an outstanding player and look for a lot of improvement.”